He left his driver at home.
And, for at least Thursday’s first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the play worked. At least on the leaderboard. Though he still hit just half of his fairways off the tee, Scott also shot a four-under 68, tied for the fifth best round of the day, and just three strokes back of leader Rory McIlroy.
“Not bad for me, 68,” Scott said when asked “how it worked out.” “I mean, that’s not bad.”
Indeed. Though at least somewhat surprising too, given the mostly bomb-and-gouge route DeChambeau took on his way to the Arnold Palmer title last year. Golf’s longest hitter devoured the Bay Hill course, no more so than on the par-5 6th, where during both weekend rounds, he covered most of the water that shapes the dogleg left with 370-yard-plus drives. (This year, DeChambeau is sitting out with injury.)
Eschewing the thought that distance, no matter where the ball drops, is the road to success, Scott instead hit a 13.5-degree 3-wood off the tee on Thursday. And on the 6th? Scott birdied the hole but hit it just 292 yards — though it did find the fairway.
“Trying to hit fairways,” Scott said when asked for his reasoning. “If you look at my driver stats, accuracy is not its best thing. Distance is fine, but accuracy is not good. If it’s not in the bag, it’s not a temptation.”
Scott is right about the numbers. Distance has never been an issue. But accuracy is. This season, the 2013 Masters champ ranks 17th on Tour in driving distance (311.8 yards); just seven years ago, he was fourth. But in the fairways hit category, he ranks 174th this season (52.71 percent); over the past five seasons, he’s ranked no better than a tie for 135th.
So out came the driver, which he decided on just Wednesday. And his numbers on Thursday looked like this — 269.5 yards per drive, which was 117th in the 120-player field; and seven of 14 fairways hit, which was tied for 90th among players.
And what will Scott do during Friday’s second round? And beyond?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve got to think about whether I’ll do it tomorrow or not yet.”